“Adventures of an Absurdist” was written before the turn of the millennium and details an earlier time in Syd Tovenaar’s strange existence. As with his other works, it is difficult to determine where fact ends and fiction begins. Perhaps everything related in the tale is true in which case this man was not only off his rocker but also quite prepared and determined to remake society in his own image. Syd and his cohorts use every trick in the book - and some that they themselves invent - to hold a mirror of absurdity up to conventional society. From unfurling massive canvasses at public functions to wearing capes and ten foot high top hats, this group of merry subversives engage in what they call “art attack.” At one point, Syd is even locked up in the local prison for an art crime involving a threat to destroy the bourgeois paintings of Pablo Picasso, a manifesto and a series of what can only be described as extreme performance art pieces.
The book is divided into nine parts each of which approach the subject matter in a different fashion. While some chapters deal with the past experiences of the narrator, others present plans and possible future scenarios. One chapter deals with the author’s attempt to apply for the job of national shaman while another with his attempt to get opiates legally. In one lengthy part we find a series of manifestoes which outline the basic principles of an art movement called Absolutism which has been apparently in motion for a thousand years or more. Also a call to action, the Adventures of an Absurdist beckons others to join Dadawar - a fight against the popular philosophy of the masses.
This work predates “Dreaming Myself to Death” by several years and nowhere is there any foreshadowing of his impending death. Syd apparently saw himself as a warrior in the good fight against the establishment and used his art as a non violent method of attacking it. To bring down a system, he writes, one must strike at its philosophical center and the real fight, he contends, is in the world of ideas. Syd delved into all the arts, but it is perhaps his “street exhibitions” and the descriptions thereof which are of the most interest. He liked to push the idea of performance art to extreme limits and, as Shakespeare wrote, all the world’s indeed a stage. In addition to creating these spectacles around town, Syd liked to present himself as a dilemma and in doing so found holes in society’s various systems. A walking paradox, this figure liked to creep into strange places and associate with people of his eccentric kind. Taking his art quite literally to the streets, Syd brought his campaign of the absurd into houses of parliament, into doctor’s offices, to luxurious hotels, cinemas, slums and, even, to courts of law.
“Adventures of an Absurdist” is a thin collection in nine parts; 1. Art Crime 2. Manic Dilemma 3. Top Hats, Ladders and Capes 4. The Good Old Days 5. Art Attack 6. Dadawar 7. Plots 8. Absolutism 9. All Hail Mono